Monday, 15 October 2018

Batty brilliance as Hatter steals show

“WE’RE all mad here,” says the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and it

“WE’RE all mad here,” says the Cheshire Cat in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and it certainly felt that way in DK proDuKtions’s theatrical adaptation.

From Friday to Sunday, families flocked to the Kenton to be swiftly shoved down the rabbit hole after the famous White Rabbit — and from the moment the lights came up, logic and sanity seemed to disappear.

The plot progressed at lightning speed, with Alice having only just introduced herself before tumbling into Wonderland.

Between any given song or scene, there was barely time to catch your breath, each one progressing into the next so rapidly it’s no wonder the White Rabbit is always behind!

The quick pace had two key strengths — one being that it held the focus of the many, rather small audience members brilliantly. Second, that with all the sudden twists it did all feel very much like a dream.



This was enhanced by the fact that Alice could walk straight into any situation as if she was expected. And indeed, none of the characters reacted as if this strange girl was anything unusual at all. Curiouser and curiouser!

To create the absurdity of Wonderland, complete with its magical objects and strange creatures, the production relied heavily on set and costume.

The set was simple and effective — one of the best uses of the Kenton’s relatively small space that I’ve seen in a while.

The wings were disguised with the spines of giant books, all marked with names of other children’s stories.

As the backdrop, there was a large screen shaped like an open book, on to which they projected beautiful paintings of the various settings.

Not only did this allow them to constantly change the scene — it was also cleverly used to show Alice shrinking.

As she grew smaller, the projection zoomed in, and the tiny door on the stage was wheeled off and replaced with an exact normal-sized replica.

The costumes, too, were inventive, often masking the fact that the small company of actors had to play more than one character.

My particular favourites were the dancing teacups, and the Caterpillar, all of whose 10 arms moved in perfect unison (even if he did look a bit stiff by the end of the scene, his “real” arms still stuck out like a scarecrow).

Of course, when considering how Wonderland was brought to life, the actors are not to be forgotten.

Jemma Carlisle made a fantastic Alice, nailing the young girl’s curiosity, and occasionally irritating contrariness. She was our companion through Wonderland, and made the journey all the more enjoyable for her sweet singing voice. (Have I not mentioned yet that this was a musical?) The Cheshire Cat was unsettling, the sleepy Dormouse adorable, but my favourite has to be the Mad Hatter. With his ludicrously exaggerated expressions, and his voice that would seesaw from deep and husky to an ear-splitting screech, Niall Rooney was a delight.

He managed not to overdo the madness, and so despite his silliness the Hatter was endearing, like a lost child. Plus, his balletic rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bat was hands down the best musical number in the show.

Even the child actors were excellent, in danger of outdoing their adult counterparts. Some can have been little more than seven years old, yet all of them brought energy and maturity to the stage.

A special mention goes to Lily Alexander as Humpty Dumpty, confident and proud before her entertaining fall off the wall.

The Kenton’s weekend in Wonderland was wonderfully mad, though by time the bows rolled around, we were so immersed that talking playing cards seemed practically ordinary.

And now, as Wonderland’s King instructed, I do believe I have begun at the beginning, gone on till I came to the end, and therefore must stop.

Review: Amy Nicholas



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